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First Bite

Steakyard Is a Work in Progress

The new steak frites-focused restaurant has a handful of standout dishes. But it also has frozen-seeming veggies, smelly fries, and customers who don’t know when to leave.
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Bavette steak, fries, a side of spinach, and a glass of Brunello at Steakyard. Brian Reinhart

Steakyard is a good idea. People like steak, but many steakhouses are formal, fancy, forbiddingly expensive places. What if a steakhouse was contemporary, lively, affordable—the kind of place you go for your birthday but also add to your Instagram Stories?

Steakyard’s specialty is steak frites, available in three cuts, all served with a pile of fries and a peppercorn brandy sauce. It has all kinds of other trendy foods: lobster pasta, ceviche, Caesar salad, salmon, and birthday desserts with sparklers. It substitutes cocktails for the more typical steakhouse focus on wine. The atmosphere is a happy medium between old-school and kids-these-days: industrial-chic and somewhat warehouse-like, with exposed brick and concrete floors, but nicely lit, comfortable in the booths, and not as loud as you’d expect. An open kitchen lets you watch flames dance around the meats.

If you order the right steak cut—there is a right one—Steakyard is a good time. But on our first visit, we found a lot of room for improvement.

Here is the conversation we were greeted with on a recent Saturday night: “Hi, how many?” “Four. We have a reservation.” “Your table isn’t ready.” “I didn’t say our name yet.” “Everyone is staying late. We have one table that’s been here since we opened. It’s going to be a while.” Then the hostess dashed off. The restaurant was in seeming chaos. This was at 7:35, three hours after Steakyard opened.

This got us more excited. People must really love being here! Maybe we will also want to stay for three hours! I was already very excited, because I love steak frites and think of it in wintertime the way many people think of college football in the fall. But it is not usually a three-hour meal.

I have nothing but sympathy for the service staff, who clearly had their hands full with renegade customers and birthdays. (We saw at least three giant sparklers hitting tables.) They were trying their best—and they also, blessedly, led hushed, half-voice versions of the “Happy Birthday” song.

My table for four chose a bottle of wine, which was a mistake. Everyone else in Steakyard was drinking cocktails. The wine list—printed without vintages—focuses heavily on big-name bubbles (Dom Perignon) and cabernet sauvignon (Caymus). We found a nice bottle of Brunello for $64, which turned out to be a 2018 and a good pairing, but it was served at room temperature. And the room was very warm. Red wines should be served in the ballpark of 60 degrees. Here’s a cheat code if you don’t have wine storage at home: pull your whites out of the fridge 10 minutes before pouring, and put your reds in 10 minutes before.

The good steak is the wagyu bavette. It’s nicely marbled and full of flavor. You can sense the flame on the edges. I’m not so confident in the “bistro steak.” Its texture was dense and tight; sliced open, it looked more like a pork tenderloin. (Unfortunately, while this article was being edited, the bavette was replaced on the menu by a picanha steak. The bistro cut remains.)

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This terrine starter is no longer on the menu, but we liked it. It was rather firm for spreading on toast but had good flavor and a scoop of good whole-grain mustard. Brian Reinhart

We ordered both our steaks medium rare, but the bavette arrived with a healthy bit of pink and the bistro steak was almost totally gray end to end. Guess that’s just luck.

The peppercorn sauce, though—that’s perfect. It’s boldly peppery, has a nice brandy flavor, and works on everything. Even a well-done steak is saved by this sauce.

Some of Steakyard’s issues will be quick, easy fixes. Take the oh-so-trendy pasta alla vodka: they’ve got a nice sauce, and now they just need to learn how to cook pasta. Our noodles were mush, overcooked by at least two minutes. I dunked fries in the vodka sauce. But timing pasta right is a simple fix. So is learning how to use OpenTable’s table management software. So is buying a wine fridge.

Other problems are more concerning. Take the side dishes—all just $7, or $5 if you add one side to your steak. Brass Ram’s outstanding sides are $15-19 each. You get what you pay for. All four people at my Steakyard table thought the creamed spinach tasted frozen and the “corn crème brûlée” tasted like canned corn. (It’s not a dessert. It’s creamed corn with a broiled top.) We also didn’t understand what was happening with our slice of pecan pie, made with a custard layer underneath the Texas pecans. Why are the pecans so soft? Did the custard soften them, or was the pie frozen?

And, while I’m asking questions, why did our fries smell like seafood? At first, I thought maybe I was hallucinating; I didn’t say anything, in case my tablemates told me that I was making things up and needed to quit being a food writer. Then someone else said, “Do the fries smell like fish?”

Luckily, there is no cause for panic. Steakyard tells us that they use canola oil for their fries. An academic research paper published in 2015 suggests that canola oil used in frying can give off “a fishy odor.”

You can see the problem. It’s not really a “simple fix” for a kitchen to change its cooking oils, use fresh veggies, buy wine fridges, watch the steak cook times, and learn how to turn tables. Some of those ideas would significantly change the business model and the price point.

But I want Steakyard to pull it off, and they can. That bavette was mighty nice. The sauce is dynamite. This corner of northeastern Dallas is crying out for a nice restaurant. Many of the building blocks are here. I will keep giving Steakyard a chance this spring, and when they find the rest of those building blocks, we will report back.

Steakyard, 6726 Shady Brook Ln.

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.

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